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Old 02-17-2018, 10:58 AM   #1
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International Thomas Vista 3600?

Calling all short skoolie experts! We've decided to convert a short bus for road trips up to nine months per year. The Thomas Vista 3600 seems to be just the right size for our needs. As luck would have it, a nearby school district has several being auctioned on publicsurplus.com.

They are all 1998 with T444E diesel engines and Allison transmissions. They all have mileage of 200K or less.

We would love some feedback on the suitability of this bus platform, the longevity of the drivetrain, and a reasonable price to pay. Any comments would be appreciated. Hope to see you all out on the road someday soon. Thanks!
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Old 02-17-2018, 11:01 AM   #2
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Check out Brokedown's build/travel thread.

Josh and Hillary have been all over the country in a Vista with the T444e and 545.

Good luck!!
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Old 02-17-2018, 12:43 PM   #3
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Location: Frisco, Texas
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Year: 1998
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: Dt466e
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i was looking at those too. noticed they are all hydraulic brakes though instead of air, fyi. not sure if all are made that way
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Old 02-17-2018, 06:51 PM   #4
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Year: 1998
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Engine: Dt466e
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Did they disappear? Can't find em looking on my phone, but I know I saw em last night
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Old 02-17-2018, 07:58 PM   #5
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My Vista is hydraulic but I've seen ads for full size ones with air. I assume air was available for short versions as well.

The T444E and AT545 are very common and well known. AT545 is the "baseline" transmission that people hope to do better than but often settle for anyway. It's a reliable platform, just don't overheat them.
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Old 02-17-2018, 07:59 PM   #6
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Location: WI
Posts: 55
Year: 1995
Chassis: International 3600
Engine: T444E
My bus is a vista shorty. No wheel wells made things easy for interior design, and gives lots of space for tanks underneath. The ride is a little rough though. Driving is pretty easy, being right over the front axle and having a short nose makes it very maneuverable.

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Old 02-17-2018, 08:57 PM   #7
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I can still see them from here jjhwick119. All 4 expire in about 12 days.
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Old 02-17-2018, 09:03 PM   #8
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Thanks everyone for your comments. Does anyone have an idea what a 1998 Thomas Vista 3600 with 200K miles should be worth?
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Old 02-17-2018, 10:41 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pborowski View Post
Thanks everyone for your comments. Does anyone have an idea what a 1998 Thomas Vista 3600 with 200K miles should be worth?
Not enough information without making a lot of assumptions.

Depending on condition, I'd be in at about $2,500 if it all looked good. I'm assuming it's got a small enngine and a 545. Decent enough tires that you don't have to visit the tire shop to feel safe taking the bus out for a stretch. Hydraulic brakes are a no go for me, but we all have our preferences. So, it depends.
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Old 02-17-2018, 11:34 PM   #10
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A Vista is a an odd sort of a duck of a bus. It is technically a Type 'B' but it is usually classed in with Type 'C' buses and was originally sold as a sort of poor man's Type 'D'.

The big advantage for the operators when the bus was sold as new was you could get more seating positions in a given length of bus compared to a Type 'C' at a reduced cost to what the same number of seating positions would be in a Type 'D'.

Fast forward many years, most of the Vista buses I have seen were spe'c'ed as special needs buses so they were generally shorter buses, many of which had lifts.

While I am not a big fan of hydraulic brakes in a bus for a lot of reasons, the hydroboosted four wheel disc brakes used in the IHC bus chassis are some of the best brakes ever used in a medium duty truck or bus. By the late '80's all of the bugs had been worked out and operators were getting 2x to 4x as many miles out of a set of pads and rotors as they ever got out of the hydravac boosted four wheel drum brakes as found on Loadstars and early S-series chassis. In the near models the brakes came with ABS which is even better (I doubt the Vista buses at which you are looking would have ABS).

The T444E and AT545, which is the most probable power package, is a very serviceable and reliable power package good for close to 300K miles in school bus use--if the bus has seen reasonable preventative maintenance. The good thing about the IHC chassis is reasonable can be a pretty low bar since the chassis were so simple and very forgiving. Since it is a 1998 it just might have the MD1000 or MD2000 series transmission which will have at least one OD gear. If it has a touch screen gear selector is won't be an AT545. If it has a 'T'-handle with RND321 it is an AT545. If it has a 'T'-handle PRNOD32 or some other variation that has a Park position and/or more than D321 then it has the MD transmission. The MD transmissions are preferred but the AT545 in such a small bus would not be a that bad.

The Vista most probably does NOT have 12" windows. I don't ever recall seeing a Vista with the high headroom options. That is not to say they didn't come with that option.

Most of the lift equipped Vista buses I have seen had the flat floor option which makes building out your "house" much easier as you have a completely flat floor from the standee line to the back of the bus.

At the right price it could be a very good choice for you. Good price in this instance would be under $4K if the tires are newer with good tread. Good price with older tires with less than 40% tread would be $3K.

And of course if it has any rust that has flakes coming off the frame rails, or floor stringers, or any body rust that has a hole through any panel is most probably a no sale.

Good luck and keep us posted as to your progress.
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Old 02-18-2018, 02:51 PM   #11
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I bought mine for 4200 from a bus company. It's a 5 window with dual air, was driving kids to school on Friday and I drove it home on Saturday. No real rust problems, runs very well.

The hydraulic brakes on this bus are awesome. They feel great and have incredible power. My new bus has air brakes and I much prefer the brakes on my Vista.

Overall the bus is really easy to live with. No worries about getting in and out of parking lots (drive-thrus are still out of the question though!) and it's a serious solid platform.

Tha AT545 is the least good part of it. I still put 30k on it last year doing a lap around the country.
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Old 02-19-2018, 10:17 AM   #12
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Year: 1995
Chassis: International 3600
Engine: T444E
I bought mine off of Craigslist for $2500. 105000 miles, well maintened and good tires, but there was some body rust that needed repair.

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Old 02-19-2018, 10:27 AM   #13
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Year: 1998
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Chassis: International 3800
Engine: Dt466e
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brokedown View Post
I bought mine for 4200 from a bus company. It's a 5 window with dual air, was driving kids to school on Friday and I drove it home on Saturday. No real rust problems, runs very well.

The hydraulic brakes on this bus are awesome. They feel great and have incredible power. My new bus has air brakes and I much prefer the brakes on my Vista.

Overall the bus is really easy to live with. No worries about getting in and out of parking lots (drive-thrus are still out of the question though!) and it's a serious solid platform.

Tha AT545 is the least good part of it. I still put 30k on it last year doing a lap around the country.
I'm also considering a lap around the lower 48, had been looking at bigger buses but have been thinking about going smaller now instead (5-8 window). Do you think this bus would be cramped with a shower / toilet / bedroom / kitchen / pull out couch ? Itll be just me, maybe a dog. I know it depends on the person as far as whats considered cramped, just wondering about your exp. Still considering going without the bathroom stuff, but having it would be really nice
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Old 02-19-2018, 12:45 PM   #14
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Thanks everyone for the 'street value' feedback. It's been really helpful! This community is awesome! I'll be bidding on some buses this week!
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Old 01-06-2021, 08:20 AM   #15
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Instead of starting a new thread, it made more sense (in my addled brain!) to add to this one...so anyone searching for Vista info might find it more easily.


I looked at a Thomas Vista yesterday and checked it to see what engine and transmission it had. The Vistas are damned cute buses!


photo_2021-01-06 06.08.00.jpeg


As mentioned in the earlier posts, there were several possible combinations of engine and tranny. The only two tranny options I know of are the AT545 and the MT643, with the MT643 being the "more desirable" option. How do you tell what it's got? There's a good thread here on Skoolie.net about "how to tell a 545 from a 643" and good info above, too. And here's what I found on this particular bus, in case it adds some helpful detail.


First, the transmission - that's the easiest to tell, just by looking. The MT643 has a flange at the back where the case is bolted together...the 545 is "slick." Here's the manual page that shows them:


Screen Shot 2021-01-06 at 5.44.24 AM.png


And here are the shifter options, which may also help in identifying it. But, really, looking under the bus it's pretty easy to distinguish between the two transmissions.


photo_2021-01-06 05.43.37.jpeg


The hardest part may be identifying the engine. I can't tell, just by looking at the front of the engine, what it is. The hood on these is short and you only get to see the front few inches of the engine. The engine identification sticker is on the passenger side and is most likely covered in grime. Reach in and wipe, vigorously, on top of the valve cover and you may be rewarded with this.


photo_2021-01-06 06.08.13.jpeg


So, in this particular case, it's a 175hp 444E engine with an AT545 transmission (it had the slick case, not the 643's rear bolted case flange).
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